STDT Commission 2003

Created in the Tolbooth, Stirling during January 2003.

Performers were:

Donald Brown (dancer & piper); Mairi Campbell (fiddle); Kally Lloyd-Jones (dancer & choreographer – The Twa Sisters); Mats Melin (dancer & overall direction / choreography); Gareth Mitchelson (dancer); Jennifer Paterson (dancer); Sandra Robertson (dancer).

Dance, music and song migrate with people, which is why a great deal of the Scottish traditional dance repertoire has been derived over many centuries from a number of mainstream European sources.

The Polska – now seen as THE traditional dance form of Sweden in time – came to Sweden from Poland in the 1500s, and arrives in Stirling in 2003!

6/4 time and 9/8 time are no longer commonly danced to, but were once quite popular. The rhythms of the song Dhannsadh gun dannsadh and the tune Donald, Willie and his Dog are explored and the Scottish Lilt takes on a new appearance.

Percussive step dancing was once common in most places in Scotland and has in recent years has undergone a considerable revival with the introduction of Cape Breton step-dancing to the Scottish scene. Since the 17th century Country Dancing in Scotland has developed its own native steps and styles making it quite distinctive from the English form. We explore a number of old and new moves and find new twists.

The ballad The Twa Sisters is the Scottish form of a ballad that first appeared in print in a broadside in 1656 under the title of The Miller and the King’s Daughter. It may be that the ballad originated in Norway in the 16th or 17th century. However, the repeated chorus lines hint at a much earlier origin in choree or chorus circling dance.

Alternative titles to this tale include The Cruel Sister, The Bonnie Milldams of Binnorie, The Bonny Bows o’ London, Binnorie and Sister, Dear Sister. Francis J. Child gives 21 versions of lyrics for the tune and similar tales exist in many other languages.

Perhaps that what remains of the ‘floor set’, as opposed to the hand-held hilt and point, sword dance tradition in Scotland are remnants of more complex weapons exercises or perhaps of pantomime dances displaying acts of courage or skill. Whatever their origins, many steps are almost forgotten in Scotland or have migrated with emigrants in the Scottish Diaspora. Here we resurrect some steps, and invent a few.